The Midnight Club (1994) is another one of those Christopher Pike books that came out a little too late for me to enjoy it in my junior high Pike heyday, but I picked it up a free copy when I worked at a bookstore in college and have been carrying it around with me for the past ten years. Now seemed like the perfect time to give it a read.
This book has one of the most somber settings of any Christopher Pike novel -- an old seaside mansion that has been converted into a hospice for terminally ill teenagers, most of whom are poor and/or alone and would be lonely and dying in some gross state hospital if they weren't rescued by the avuncular owner of the hospice.
Our hero is one of the dying teenagers, Ilonka, who has formed The Midnight Club with her roommate Anya, the sexy and dying Kevin (who Ilonka is secretly in love with), his roommate Spence, and the quiet and modest Sandra. Every night at midnight the five teens meet in the basement of the mansion to tell each other stories -- some of the stories are scary, some romantic, and all a little supernatural. After one meeting they start talking about ghosts and what happens when you die, and make the pact that whichever one of them dies first will do everything in his or her power to contact the rest of the group from the other side. And then one of them dies in the night!
At least that is what the back of the book wants you to think this story is about. And all of that does actually happen, but instead of being a freaky tale of ghosts and death, this is actually a rather sweet love story about growing up and forgiveness. I'm not sure how Pike did this (and maybe I was just feeling emotional this week), but this book is nicely written, engaging, and often very moving. I know! From Christopher Pike! I think part of the difference in this book is that he gave himself a structure for filling the novel with nicely told mini-stories (the ones the teens tell in The Midnight Club), which puts a little less pressure on his main characters, and allows their characters to develop and their relationships to evolve with out the full crush of Pike's usually rather ham-handed descriptions.
If you are looking for the usual Pike novel, this probably isn't for you, but I really found it worthwhile. Go Team Pike!
[Also, the one hilarious part of this novel is the guy sitting second from the right on the cover. It is hard to see in this picture, but he is wearing the most amazing green plaid shirt with the sleeves cut off, unbuttoned to his mid-chest. Hospice wear!]